Cassette tape culture

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these days it is hard to avoid the continuing debate that surrounds the ‘future of music’ and the formats that bring it to us. however this so called ‘digital age’isn’t the first time that new music formats have created such a stir, some time not too long ago it was cassette tapes that were causing the music industry concern.the design of the cassette tape was resolved in the 1960s by the dutch electronics company philips as a portable alternative to the large vinyl formats.having not been patented the cassette tape design was quickly copied by many manufacturers leading to its widespread use. during the mid 1980s cassettes were at their most popular accounting for more than half of the worlds total music sales. alongside the attraction of music on the move, the cassette tape offered the opportunity for people to edit and customize their music easily for the first time. the DIY ethic of the tapes didn’t stop with home recording though, as many people often created their own artwork for their mixes.

investigation recording

twenty years on from the hight of their popularity cassettes are all but forgotten by the music industry, but still very much in use in police interview rooms. despite the march of new technology such as digital recording, which makes analysing individual words and phrases much easier, the humble cassette still reigns when it comes to recording evidence. the UK’s police forces, for example, use about 500,000 audio cassettes a year for interviews, half of the estimated one million tapes sold in the UK each year.

cassette collecting

is surprisingly popular, particularly in germany. a single teac cobalt (with reel-to-reel spools inside) is worth more than 200 USD, but the top for cassette collectors is the sony super metal master from 1990, with a ceramic shell and a magnesium case. read more

cassette collecting


early japanese cassette tapes that transform into dinosaurs, or those released by hasbro in 1984, the generation 1 transformer transforms from tape cassette, to robot, animal etc and back. via toybin

hasbro cassette transformer, 1984

hasbro cassette transformer, 1984

early japanese transformers from cassettes to dinosaurs

turn the obsolete into

the craze for cassettes as music messengers may well be gone, and hundreds of millions of tapes are out there unused, but two current trends have brought them out for a second play. with 80’s nostalgia rife in the visual world and recycling and sustainability mentioned just about everywhere, the humble cassette has undergone several unlikely re-incarnations in the last few years. wether it be the retro graphics adorning them or the reels of tape inside them cassettes are finding their way back into the hands of the ‘cool’ crowd.

cassette wallets

the hand made wallets by marcella foschi were designed especially for the designboom mart in tokyo, november 2006. the italian designer dismantles old cassette tapes, removes their insides and then joins the plastic sides together with a zip. each design is usually a one off leading to a high demand for the wallets. available via the designboom shop.

cassette wallets by marcella foschi image ? designboom

cassette wallets by marcella foschi image ? designboom

a different version is the DIY cassette wallet via crafster

DIY cassette wallet

tape crochet

whilst some designers are more concerned with the outer appearance of cassettes others use the tape itself as the basis of their designs. a shortlisted entry of designboom’s competition ‘Re-think + RE-cycle (october 2004) by alyce santoro shows dresses and furniture covers fabricated from weaving cassette tape.

sonic superhero dress by alyce santoro

dresses and other items fabricated from weaving cassette tape by alyce santoro

belt buckles

another accessory of the tape kind is the cassette belt buckle. old tapes are simply fitted with a standard buckle on the back. created by chandra sweet and available via honorable mention another belt design is a 15K gold cassette buckle via etsy

‘cassette tape belt buckle’ by chandra sweet

15k gold (fake) cassette buckle

cassette necklace pendant

one quick way to re-cycle old tapes is to simply attach them to a necklace. although it is probably more suitable to use mini cassettes. via etsy

‘mix tape’ necklace

cassette bag

one slightly annoying aspect of cassettes is the unravelling of the tape – many mixes would meet their end, by being chewed up in the player. this obviously had a serious affect on the makers of the ‘tape bag’. the tote bag features colorful graphics and two straps that mimic unravelled tape.

mix it up with this retor carry-all by world wide fred

USB memory stick

‘all in all, 2 hours of work and thinking, for a very simple, but I think rather cool mod for my old usb stick.’ see the photoset found on flickr

USB memory stick

your name on tape

just enter text and click the ‘go’ button. a picture of a cassette will be generated for you.

tape dispenser

this easy to use tape dispenser might not re-use existing cassette tapes but it certainly doesn’t mess about when it comes to it’s design: ‘it’s a tape, it dispenses tape.’

tape dispenser by j-me

record racers

one project that doesn’t so much re-cycle obsolete cassettes as the machines that play them. the german event ‘record racers‘ invites participants to transform their old walkmans into small ‘racers’ by using the players motors to make them move. on your marks, get set, press fast forward!

‘recorder racers’ transform your old walkman and cassette tapes into mini motorized vehicles.

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